Appalachian State (2-7, 0-1 SoCon) vs. South Carolina (6-3, 0-0 SEC)
When: Dec. 19, 2012, 5 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
The Appalachian State Mountaineers will be looking to capture their second win in a row to complete a four-game road trip when they face the South Carolina Gamecocks in a nonconference battle on Wednesday evening at the Colonial Life Arena.
The Mountaineers were able to snap a seven-game road-losing streak on Sunday afternoon by getting an 81-71 win at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A win over the Gamecocks on Wednesday would hand the Gamecocks a second loss this season to a team from the Southern Conference's North Division. South Carolina dropped a 65-53 decision to Phoenix on Nov. 21.
Wednesday night's meeting between the Mountaineers and Gamecocks marks the fourth all time in the series between the two schools, with the Gamecocks having claimed all three previous games. It marks the first meeting between the Mountaineers and Gamecocks since Dec. 1, 2004, when the Mountaineers lost 91-57 in Columbia.
South Carolina enters Wednesday's contest coming off a 91-74 win over Jacksonville 12 days ago, having taken a break for end-of-the-semester exams.
The Gamecocks are under the direction of Frank Martin, who is in his first season at the helm in Columbia since moving over from Kansas State.
Appalachian State was able to get the victory on the road on Sunday, getting some big production out of junior forward Tevin Baskin, who posted 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field while snagging four rebounds in the win over the University of Missouri-Kansas City Kangaroos.
Baskin led four Mountaineers in double figures in the contest, as he was joined by Tab Hamilton (17 points), Jamaal Trice (16 points) and Jay Canty (12 points).
In their last game against the Jacksonville Dolphins, the Gamecocks were paced by Michael Carrera with 17 points. He was joined in double figures by Brian Richardson (16 points), Brenton Williams (12 points) and Bruce Ellington (12 points).
The Mountaineers enter the Wednesday early-evening contest being led by Jay Canty (17.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG), who is the No. 2 scorer in the Southern Conference this season. He has been the league's most dynamic newcomer this season after transferring in from Xavier.
Canty is a pure scorer, and he marks a trend of successful transfers who have made their home with the Appalachian State basketball program, including players like Omar Carter from Charleston Southern (2011-12) and Donte Minter (2006-07) from Virginia. Both of those players were all-league performers.
Canty, a 6'6" guard/forward, is one of the most athletic players in the Southern Conference and has scored in double figures in seven of 10 games this season, including six straight double-figure scoring performances. His best performance of the campaign came against Missouri, when he posted 29 points in the 72-56 loss to the Tigers.
Joining Canty in the Appalachian starting lineup will be Hamilton (12.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG) and Trice (8.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG). Canty is a good ball-handler who has had to handle some of the point-guard responsibilities after Mike Neal was sidelined with an injury.
Appalachian State has been led from the perimeter by Hamilton, who comes into the contest having nailed 19 triples and is shooting a sizzling 45.2 percent (19-of-42) from the perimeter. That percentage currently ranks him sixth in three-point percentage in the Southern Conference.
In the paint, Appalachian State is led by Michael Obacha (4.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG) and Nathan Healy (13.2 PPG. 5.7 RPG). Obacha is active and athletic in the paint and is one of the hardest workers on the team. Much like Healy, Obacha is a scrappy player with the uncanny ability to get to loose balls and is active at getting his hands in passing lanes for deflections.
Healy is having his best season for the Mountaineers in 2012-13, and he has become one of the team's most reliable scorers, having developed a nice mid-range game.
The Mountaineers have gotten good minutes off the bench from Baskin (7.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG) and freshman point guard Chris Burgess (3.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG). Burgess has been able to provide some good depth with the absence of Neal.
Appalachian State enters Wednesday night's game averaging 72.6 PPG to rank third in the Southern Conference in scoring average. However, the Mountaineers have struggled defensively, as they yield 77.3 PPG, ranking them No. 11 out of 12 teams so far this season. The Mountaineers shoot 43.8 percent from the field to rank fifth overall in the conference in field-goal percentage.
South Carolina enters Wednesday night's clash being led by guard Brenton Williams (13.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG) and small forward Michael Carrera (11.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG).
Williams has been the key offensively for the Gamecocks this season, having scored in double figures in seven games. His top performance was against Rider in a Gamecocks win, when he posted 22 points. He has a team-leading 16 trifectas this season and is shooting 50 percent (16-of-34) from three-point range.
Carrera has not been too far behind Williams on the scoring trail this season, and he has scored in double figures in four of the six games he has seen action in for the Gamecocks. He leads the team with eight rebounds per game. His 17 points and 15 boards in the season-opening win over Milwaukee were enough to garner him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Joining Williams in the backcourt will be junior point guard Eric Smith (6.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG). He enjoyed his best game of the season in a 10-point win over Morgan State, posting 17 points. His seven assists the last time out against Jacksonville also represented a season high.
Carrera will be joined in the low post by RJ Slawson (3.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG) and Lakeem Jackson (9.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG). Jackson and Slawson are two solid role players on the interior for South Carolina. Jackson is on the cusp of averaging in double figures for the Gamecocks with four double-digit scoring performances. He enjoyed his top performance of the season against Elon University, posting 14 points.
The top players coming off the pine for Martin's Gamecocks are guards Bruce Ellington (11.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG) and LaShay Page (12.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG).
Since joining the team from football, Ellington has scored in double figures twice in his three games, posting 12 points in back-to-back games against Jacksonville and Clemson. South Carolina is simply a better basketball team with Ellington in the lineup.
Page, who will play one of the wing positions off the bench, has started all eight games he has played in this season. Page missed the last game against Jacksonville, but like Ellington he is a pure scorer. His top performance came against Missouri State, when he posted 22 points.
This should be a good contest, as the Mountaineers have gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Missouri, Virginia Tech and East Carolina before losing those games in heartbreaking fashion. The Mountaineers will keep it close but will lose this one by the seven- to 10-point range. The Mountaineers are improving with each game and should be a factor in the North Division by the time league play begins in earnest in 2013.
Final Score Prediction: South Carolina 68, Appalachian State 62